Legislator Urges Regent to Resign

A member of the committee investigating Regent Wallace Hall has told Gov. Rick Perry that the embattled regent should resign.


In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry, a member of the Texas House committee investigating UT System Regent Wallace Hall for potentially overstepping his duties has recommended that the drama surrounding UT could end if Hall would resign. State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) wrote that the controversy surrounding Hall damages the University’s ability to recruit top talent and build centers of academic excellence.

“The clear solution,” Larson wrote, “is to ask Wallace Hall to resign from the UT System Board of Regents.”

Perry appointed Hall to the board in 2011 and has appointed every member of the group that governs the 15 member UT System. Hall’s aggressive pursuit of UT-Austin records has bolstered rumors of a “witch hunt” against campus president Bill Powers. According to testimony from UT-Austin custodian of records Kevin Hegarty, those requests equal 800,000 pages. The committee is investigating whether Hall violated state or federal law in accessing protected student information.

Larson, a Texas A&M University graduate, urges Perry to consider what might happen if a similar controversy bubbled up in College Station, rather than in Austin.

“I am confident that, as Texas Aggies, we would both be incensed if a Texas A&M System regent was harassing the president of our flagship institution,” Larson wrote.

The letter, originally obtained by the Texas Tribune, is dated October 30, the same day that Perry criticized the committee’s investigation into Hall and put his support behind the troubled regent. Perry urged legislators not to “stymie” Hall, who he said is “totally and absolutely correct” in questioning the operations of UT-Austin.

It also comes a day after multiple news outlets reported on a memo from Tom Hicks to his brother Steve Hicks, who is also a current UT regent, in which Hall is described as telling Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s agent in January that Powers would be gone by the end of the year. The memo has fueled further suspicion that Hall has abused his power in an effort to oust the UT-Austin president.

Larson did praise newly-elected regents chair Paul Foster, who has recommended that UT System regents go through the full board to make data requests from campuses, and that regents use UT email address, rather than personal or business accounts (currently UT regents only use personal email accounts). Larson called Foster’s proposed changes “a step in the right direction.”

The committee will meet again next Tuesday and Wednesday. At hearings last month, members seemed eager to have Hall testify in November, though that possibility now seems more remote. Rusty Hardin, the committee’s counsel, wrote to Hall’s attorneys—also on October 30—indicating that it would be premature to bring Hall before the group before receiving all documents they have requested. 

“Neither of us may agree with everything Bill Powers has done as President of UT-Austin, but watching Wallace Hall conduct a Salem-esque tribunal of Bill Powers is unprofessional, undignified, and unbecoming of a gubernatorial appointee.” 

Members of the committee have criticized the UT System at various times for, ironically, dragging its feet in producing records that members have asked for. Hardin said in his letter that the failure to produce the documents could possibly be construed as contempt.

For his part, Larson maintained that Hall’s resignation was the best way to soothe any wounds inflicted by the controversy, and recommended that Hall’s talents could be useful in some other appointed role, but not as a regent.

“Neither of us may agree with everything Bill Powers has done as President of UT-Austin,” Larson wrote, “but watching Wallace Hall conduct a Salem-esque tribunal of Bill Powers is unprofessional, undignified, and unbecoming of a gubernatorial appointee.”

You can read Larson’s letter below, or by clicking here.

State Rep. Lyle Larson’s Letter to Gov. Rick Perry, Oct. 30, 2013

Photo courtest Marsha Miller.


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